By Valerie Uy
From the UP Fighting Maroons' historic entrance to the Final Four to the Ateneo Blue Eagles' strong claim to the throne, this season's UAAP Men's Basketball games were nothing short of glorious. After a gritty Game 1 win by Ateneo, UP was determined to put up a good fight and take Game 2, and proved to be worthy opponents to the defending champions. But in the end, the Blue Eagles clamped down on defense and an offensive team effort led by finals MVP Thirdy Ravena secured their quest for a back-to-back title run.
Dynasty against destiny. The defending champions against the underdog challengers. It was a hard-fought series and a worthy finale to an incredible UAAP season where both teams showed the utmost determination that made the communities that support the #OneBigFight and the #UPFight proud.
And while the championship title was won over stats and numbers, what we saw was the heart behind every shot thrown by both teams. Here, we list down the real highlights that proved that these Katipuneros fought like it's the only battle of their lives.
1. Trust the system, trust #BEBOB
A raucous, passionate crowd. An inspiring underdog upset story waiting to happen. The noise was defeaning– and the Ateneo Blue Eagles were the only thing standing between the UP community and their Cinderella ending. But in the end, the defending champions did what they do best, and that was win championships. Ateneo played above the noise, and, with every perfectly executed play, showed UP a valuable lesson in composure, focus, and championship pedigree on the biggest stage of collegiate basketball.
Losing is never easy. The UP Fighting Maroons may have fallen short of a championship this year, but to the community, they have given so much more. The story might be over for Paul Desiderio, but his famous battle cry will echo in the hearts of Iskos and Iskas for years to come. It took 32 long years, but the UP Fighting Maroons have arrived. And there is nowhere to go but UP.
3. The Katipunan Camaraderie
The Ateneo and UP communities are very much intertwined not only from coaches and players, but also to the many families, barkadas, and love stories that both bleed blue and carry the maroon pride. And this was very much evident in what is called one of the friendliest finals series of the UAAP, and best exemplified by this season’s MVP Bright Akhuetie and Rookie of the Year Angelo Kouame.
An accidental play that led to an injury scare could have escalated, but players from both squads showed remarkable sportsmanship, and the series continued on. Respect is built and earned on and off the court–the UP community was quick to denounce offensive tweets against Ateneo. And as the confetti rained down on the Blue Eagles, the Ateneo squad was quick to congratulate a worthy opponent for an unforgettable series. It was a beautiful ending to Season 81 as the crowd lit Araneta Colliseum up. At a time when it is so easy to be divisive, judgmental, and offensive, the Katipunan faithfuls showed us that at the end of the day, we can be opponents on the court, but one community off it.
As we close the season, we salute all the graduating seniors from both teams. To the UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles, thank you for playing your hearts out for the glory of your schools. Either way, Katipunan still wins. Now, the only question that's left is this: will we see a rematch next season?
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